Salt and Sanctuary is a 2D platformer developed by Ska Studios and heavily influenced by the Dark Souls series of games where defeating bosses is about as easy as going outside in a thunderstorm and trying to dodge rain.
The crushing and brutal lows that you will inevitably experience are offset by the moments of absolute elation as you finally beat a boss that you have been smashing your fucking head against for hours and hours. I spent my first 4 hours of Salt and Sanctuary trying to beat the first boss, and when I finally did it, when I finally landed that killing blow. Oh baby, In that moment, I was invincible.
Salt and Sanctuary uses a metroidvania style map layout. Branching paths, locked doors, ledges that are conveniently twice the height of a standard jump and doubling back to revisit past areas are all things you will encounter within the 22 different locations the game gives you to explore. The platforming is solid and making any of the games precarious jumps is relatively simple. However eating an arrow or taking damage mid-jump will cause you to instantly plummet to the ground, meaning a single archer can easily ruin your day with one well placed shot.
The combat is slow and methodical. A realistic weighting to each weapon means that simply mashing the attack button to disperse enemies will probably see you get fingered by the reaper. You will need to employ patience, skill and master the use of both the block and roll buttons if you plan on making it past the first 15 minutes of the game.
If you still have a controller and a TV by minute 16, then it is quite likely you are in it for the long haul and will need to learn how to use Salts, the equivalent of Souls in the Dark Souls series of games.
Salts are used for more or less everything, levelling up, upgrading weapons and buying items but should you die, you will lose all the salts you are carrying. Retrieving those lost souls is possible, but you will need to make it back to where you perished and either slay the enemy that forcefully stuck his fist up your butthole, or kill the beast that spawned at your point of demise. Should you die during this salt retrieval excercise, then those salts are lost forever.
The artwork of Salt and Sanctuary appears to be all hand drawn and whilst I personally love the style, I can see where this might put some people off a little bit as it definitely doesn’t look as flashy as some of the other 2d games on the market. The colour palette doesn’t really help here either, the browns, the greys and the blacks all fit well within the Dark Fantasy world that Ska Studios has built, but get boring to look at for hours on end. The character creation menu is pretty stock standard, anime hairstyle here, rockstar hairstyle there and the lead character always has this vacant expression on his face, like he got dropped on the head way too many times as a baby. Changing armour in game changes the look of the player, which is pretty neat and the weapons range from little pissy pocket knife to shoulder dislocatingly large hammer.
The music adds a decent amount of tension to areas and to bossfights, the weapons all clang and clash as metal hits metal. Overall sound quality is good, but nothing overbearingly special.
With 23 bosses to beat you down Salt and Sanctuary should take the average player around 20 hours to complete; completionists can quite easily double that. The varying character build options means multiple playthroughs are definitely possible meaning replayability of the game is quite high.
Ska Studios have managed to successfully capture everything great about Dark Souls and transition it to a metroidvania style 2d environment. An insane difficulty and rather bleak art style could be enough to deter some players, Blind Masochists however, will be rewarded with one of the best 2d platformers in years.
Salt and Sanctuary